LAS CRUCES, N.M. — New Mexico Attorney General Gary King visited Las Cruces Wednesday to speak at a bi-national summit at New Mexico State University and addressed several issues affecting the state.
The attorney general says a good relationship with Chihuahua is key for New Mexico's economy and has been working with his counterpart in the Mexican state on border law enforcement issues.
"I would like to hopefully get back to what it was when I was going to school in Las Cruces where people can freely go across the border into Juarez or into Chihuahua," King said.
He stressed making safety a top priority to prevent people from being hesitant on crossing into either country.
He said the increase in tourism would be beneficial to both states and would help boost New Mexico's economy.
"It is certainly important for us to improve business in New Mexico," King said.
The attorney general added he would like to see more of an emphasis on small business growth after seeing poor job creation year after year with the state relying heavily on federal jobs.
Those that are in jobs are not seeing income growth with a stagnant economy adding valuing to a good education.
"We need to be working with universities to create the kinds of jobs and training for people so they can do the jobs in the 21st century," King said.
During the last year, King's office has been scrutinized for their investigation into possible fraud at 15 behavioral healthcare facilities.
An audit sealed by King's office was at the center of removing the CEOs of those companies for alleged fraud of $36 million.
"We're going to be meticulous about our investigation cause these are people's lives that's on the line," King said.
King explained the audit was sealed to preserve the integrity of the investigation, but the heads of the companies argue they did not have due process and the opportunity to defend themselves.
The attorney general said there are thousands of pages of evidence to review and is uncertain when the documents will be released or when an opinion will be issued.
"It's difficult to set a timeline on when that can be done because we want to make sure when we do bring that evidence to court that's it's convincing to a jury," King said.
King's office also tackled same-sex marriage early in the year and most recently after Dona Ana County began issuing marriage licenses to all couples regardless of gender.
"Our argument was that it does violate the equal protection clause of the state constitution so we're wating on the court to issue their opinion," King said.
The attorney general's office participated in arguments at the state supreme court in late October.
King said he hopes an opinion will be issued by the end of the year but said the court will be very careful in writing their opinion as it will affect many people.
King, who opposes a controversial horse slaughter plant and has temporarily been halted from operating by a federal appeals court said he would consider blocking future attempts at reopening.
King argues while the horse meat will not be consumed in the state, it could be contaminated by drugs given to the animal and there's no way of testing it.
Kings said state law prevents contaminated meat from being produced in New Mexico and will aggressively continue to block the plant at the federal and state level.